if anybody is a competitive HS/college runner, you might of heard of the novel, "Once a Runner". the moral of that story was that there was no secret to running. work day in and day out will produce results. photography is no different. as mentioned, just shoot more.
if you want to improve greatly, it requires focus (no pun intended!) and determination. try to make this goal for yourself, try a 365 day challenger (take a photo of different subjects/maybe perspective/maybe time of year, day, but for everyday of the year).
even better challenge is the 10 photos/1 subject/1 day challenge (focusing on one subject and forcing yourself to learn how to manipulate the subject with different angles, positions, and camera settings. to make the challenge harder, maybe ditch the zoom lens and play with a prime. because one day you will walk into a situation where zooming is not conducive for some reason. the prime will force you to learn how to compose. maybe even try ditching the dslr, and shoot strictly on an iphone/cellphone, or a P&S. ignore the colors and aim for composing. to help with that, shoot strictly black and white.
an important note of photography is that it's an art. it really is no different than painting in a sense. painting just requires more time, because you can't capture a fleeting moment with much detail in a minute or less. what i am hinting at is the fact that you have to walk into a situation with an ambition.
outstanding example: i want to try and capture a photo of "X" creek using a longer exposed shutter, and attempt to capture more background than foreground.
excellent example: i want to try and capture a photo of "X" creek using a longer exposed shutter
good example: i want to try and capture a photo of "X" creek
satisfactory example: i want to visit "X" park (assume "X" creek is in "X" park) and capture a photo.
bad example: i am going to amble around town and shoot.
generally, you are going to be faced with the "good example". other times, you will just be walking around town with a camera with a goal of shooting and not shopping, maybe a mixture of both. sometimes you get lucky and get hit with inspiration. maybe you are even luckier, and happen to have your camera and you snap an amazing photo of a spontaneous moment. anyways the lesson here is that you want to walk in with an idea before just spraying. this will get your mind running and eventually your skills will pick up.
all of this also gets you use to your camera and it's settings.
now, you ask about editing programs. i am of very little help, but LR3 (Light Room) is a good program that forces you to stray away from crazy photoshops. editing to produce an excellent photo should be simple tweaks, not massive distortions that change the context of the photo.
cliffnotes: shoot, shoot, shoot. ditch the dslr once in awhile. learn how to compose.